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What is mid-century modern design?


Vintage furniture remains as popular in 21st century settings as it ever was and mid century modern design furniture has enjoyed a revival since millennials have relocated in droves to larger cities, to occupy small flats and houses, while embracing the need for multi-purpose pieces. 

What is mid century modern design?

Mid century modern design is generally accepted to span the period from 1933 to 1965 and includes not just furniture, but also architecture and graphic design. It came into its own following World War II as new technology and materials evolved and there was social movement into urban areas and therefore smaller living spaces. The movement is however most closely associated with the years from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s. The phrase ‘mid century modern’ is attributed to the author Cara Greenberg who titled her 1984 book ‘Midcentury Modern: Furniture of the 1950s’.

What is mid century modern furniture?

Vintage mid century modern furniture is characterised by functional pieces which feature an artistic appeal and it leans heavily on the collaboration between craftsmen and artists; the term ‘modern’ refers to the aesthetic rather than meaning ‘current’.

Features of mid century modern furniture

Shape – wooden mid century modern furniture is usually angular and the often-sleek pieces can be identified by straight lines and smooth surfaces, as seen in vintage Ercol furniture. Where other materials are used, we often see more organically shaped pieces.

Materials - although wood (mainly teak, a favourite of manufacturers G Plan) was used in the production of furniture, many other materials were also used. These include metal (stainless steel, nickel and aluminium), glass and vinyl which were often brought together to create unique, curved shapes. Designers from this period were bold and not afraid to try new materials like acrylic and Formica, marrying organic and synthetic materials to create texture.

Colour - mid century furniture can be easily recognised by its colour, with pieces featuring bright, bold hues incorporated either as accents or to draw attention to the piece, making it the focus of its setting.

Functionality – mid century modern furniture is all about the functionality and every piece was manufactured to serve a purpose.

Uncluttered – furniture designers focused on creating uncluttered pieces, with a lighter, visual appearance. The furniture is unembellished, with no ornate detailing, and has simple finishings.

Scale – to fit in with the smaller, urban homes of the post-war period, mid century furniture was smaller and completely portable.

Mid century modern design at Hemswell Antique Centres

Mid century modern design pieces have never fallen completely out of favour and these timeless and iconic vintage industrial and retro pieces work in every type of setting, from the modern inner-city apartment to the boutique hotel and trendy restaurant. However, with many of the iconic pieces from the 1950s and 1960s now being reproduced, it is vital when looking for vintage furniture for sale, that you go to a reputable dealer, who can authenticate the pieces you view. Our dealers offer a broad range of C20th century furniture featuring pieces from prestigious manufacturers including Ercol, G Plan and Knoll, as well as mid century modern ceramics and glassware, to complete your setting. For those looking to furnish a larger project, we can offer a virtual tour. Perfect for the trade buyer, interior designers, hoteliers and project managers, our virtual tours are conducted by Managing Director, Robert Miller who will personally accompany you on a visual tour of our four buildings to showcase the pieces of interest to you.  

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